So I’ve written before about my Magical Puberty Adventures, which blessed/cursed me with boobs at a young age. Back then, not many girls went through puberty in the second, third or fourth grades, as evidenced by me being the first girl in my grade to get my period.

Every year, however, it seems like the average-age-of-puberty clock gets set back a little bit younger.

Our friends at the Daily Mail (gawd, I think I’m beginning to love it as much as Emily does) recently profiled a little girl who got her period at eight years old. EIGHT. YEARS. OLD.

From the Daily Mail:

“Every decade, according to German researchers, the average age for the onset of puberty falls by four to five months.”

When I was a kid, I was told that girls begin to “blossom into womanhood” with the onset of menses. And at 11, I was nowhere ready for “womanhood,” whatever the eff that was supposed to be. But I knew that having my period meant I could have babies, and if I didn’t want to have a baby, I had to either 1) abstain from sex (which turned out to be super easy for me from the ages of 11-19 years old because boys weren’t interested in me) or 2) use some form of contraception.

If I am at all anxious about having the sex talk someday with my son, I cannot imagine having a conversation with an eight-year-old girl who just got her period. Because really, what do you tell her about the blood and the cramping and whatnot? Do you lie, like with the Tooth Fairy? Make up some fantastical story involving clouds and glitter and magic? Give her a few dollars every month when she gets her period to make it a less scary experience.

I would like to think that if I had a girl, I would talk to her about why she menstruates, whether that starts at eight or 16, even though explaining to an eight-year-old that her body is now capable of growing a baby sounds like one of the worst conversations you could ever have with another human being. No wonder my mom just handed me a book. I have to be honest, this early puberty thing is frightening to me, and at times like these, I am glad I have a boy.

Even that carries some challenges. Kids seem to grow up very quickly. While we may limit their freedom to roam around the neighborhood, they are exposed (through TV, movies, the Internet, other kids at school) to concepts and ideas that until a few decades ago were reserved for teenagers. My son asked me recently if second graders can have girlfriends. He talks about “hot ladies.” And this is a kid whose TV time is limited (at least when he’s at my house; I can’t speak to what he watches at his dad’s).

It’s nothing new for younger kids to want to emulate the behaviors they see in older kids. I did it, and I expect my son will do the same. He looks up to the teenagers at the skate park, mimics their speech, asks for certain types of clothes he sees them wearing. And little girls do it too: They see older kids or teenagers wearing and doing certain things, and they want to wear and do that, too.

Recently, as I was clicking around our sexy Halloween roundup, I came across this HuffPo article about the “sexification” of little girls’ Halloween costumes in the last 20 years. My mom noted that when she shops for regular, everyday clothes for my six-year-old niece, she often finds racks and racks of “sexy” clothes for little girls.

Add this to, say, pole dancing classes for kids, and Disney Princess everything from birth*, and I can’t help but wonder what message these girls are getting as they grow up. They are being presented with a very specific idea of femininity, one that goes something like, “Real women are sexy princesses to the exclusion of everything else.” And on top of that, they are menstruating at eight. If puberty was confusing for me, at 10, I can’t imagine how confusing it is for these girls.

I don’t know the answer. And I don’t know the reason girls are going through puberty so young. Some theories include that it could be triggered by a toxic cocktail of exposure to plastics and other chemicals, pesticides and hormones in our water and food, and light from televisions/smartphones/computers. And who knows, maybe it’s all of those things.

The fact is, though, it’s happening. And I’m not sure what we can do about it.

Somer is not usually so serious on Twitter @somersherwood.

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Somer Sherwood on XOJane! 

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    hormones in the meat…..

  • http://twitter.com/TearyneG Tearyne (@TearyneG)

    Hormones in our everything. Meat, milk, you name it…

  • BoutDatLove

    Yeahp, you both are right. There are even hormones in the dang on water smh

  • Krystal M.

    8 actually isn’t that young. that’s the youngest it gets. I got my period at 9 so I’m not that far from 8 (clearly) and that was back in the 90′s. As far as the talk goes, it wasn’t as traumatic as you’re making it seem, lol. My mom is a nurse so she broke it down pretty well. There are some changes going on in my body and it may seem scary but I’ll get through it. She (a woman now in her 50′s) got her period around 8-9, too. Last I checked, the age range of puberty is 8-16 y.o. I’ll get worried when kindergarteners start growing breasts, lol!

  • wepo1

    Perms!

  • keepitreal

    It’s the hormone in the food, milk especially and YES 8 is actually that young to start puberty, WTF??? Must every issue be downplayed and the obvious be ignored SMH

  • wepo1

    And all them other hair chemicals black women put in little black girls heads that companies claim are all natural!

  • Sydney

    I think part of it is just that everyone’s body is unique. I slightly suspect that this girl may be one (odd) outlier. But until this becomes a more prevalent thing, or until I can read the journal this data was published in (where is this study???), I’m not entirely convinced just yet. But it also never hurts to decrease your children’s exposure to chemicals!

  • C

    Despite you and your mother getting your periods at 8, even if that is normal in your family, that was early. I have heard of girls getting periods in the first and second grade. And I think many people have seen 6-7 year old girls with small breasts.

    It is scary to me because it is getting earlier and earlier. In 40 years, will the new norm be 4 or 5? If puberty starts earlier for more girls, then will sexual activity start earlier, too? I need my baby girl to stay a baby for another 6 or 7 years.

  • Chillyroad

    I’ve read it had to do with stress, obesity, absence of a father in the home,etc.

  • Sweetles

    I was also thinking that maybe obesity had something to do with it,

  • Get Ready

    The hormones in the food have to be the main contributing factor. The earliest age of puberty I can recall was at the age of 9. Most of my female family members started around the age of 11, 12. And I’ve never heard of a 6 or 7 years old. They are still babies. That is a lot going on with a little girl’s body. And the earlier they start, the sooner other life lessons must be taught in which their brains haven’t yet developed for.

  • Chrissy

    My mom also hit puberty at 9, she was born in the 50s. I hit puberty at 10.

  • Kam

    Yep, as well as low quality plastics that leach hormone mimicking chemicals into food and drink and hormone-containing hair products.

  • Kacey

    Phthalates! If you don’t know, look it up.

    (And the scary thing is it’s in practically EVERYTHING we use on a daily basis)

  • Anthony

    THis early puberty is scary since a females eggs are finite. Thirty years from now, I suspect menopause will come three to five years earlier, and more women will have hystorectomies.

  • Allie

    I do , believe it was the hormones in the foods as well. I began getting breast at age 5 ( I remember when my Mom freaked out when washing me one morning before school), I then started my period in 3rd grade at age 8 when I reach my maximum height 5’5. My mother and father took me to the doctor (before I started my period) to measure my growth plate and gave me a book called Terry Too Soon lol! ( I’m, cracking up now thinking about it!) They were going to give me hormone therapy to slow down the development, but decided against it.
    Sooo, I knew my period was coming, but I did not know the significance of it . I did feel cheated out of a joyful rite of passage when all of my friends got theirs and felt awkward until the 7th grade when the guys finally caught up with me in school . I also found myself getting hit on by older boys and men -_- because of my hourglass s/voluptuous shape, it has only been in the past 4 years that I have felt it is okay to be “sexy” and fault my curves
    Side note, I am a teacher and a lot of the children in the first grade most definitely have breast and I can say 2/3 of the third graders at my school are my height/have breast.

  • GeekMommaRants

    Is that you?

  • GeekMommaRants

    Our ancestors did not experience puberty until they were 16-19 years old. Today, it’s becoming a nightmare when physical puberty starts at 6 years old. “The save money by selling horrible food industry” in this country is the culprit. Thanks capitalism!!

  • wepo1

    LOL, is that you! You know my stance, so yes it is me!

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